Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

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Saint Helena, mother of fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine, travelled to Jerusalem to search out the holy places of Jesus’s life. On her journeys she located the Saviors tomb, which was beneath Temple of Aphrodite, and had the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher built over the tomb. During the excavation workers located the three crosses. According to the Legend, the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. That is a much abbreviated explanation of the feast day: it celebrates the cross of Christ…
The contradiction of the cross is that it is the symbol of torturous death which has become the symbol of salvation : Its vertical beam as a reminder of the relationship between God and Man, its horizontal Christs reaching out to the brotherhood of man. Its symbol of death , our death to sin, and its symbol of salvation , our salvation through Christ :Through that cross we, are baptized into Christ. The Franciscan habit takes on this symbology as when the friar’s hands are outstretched the habit forms the shape of this cross, as do all when they pray with outstreached arms; just as Jesus stretched out his arms to us while on that cross.                                                                             

Why the exaltation of that cross, why the celebration of an instrument of suffering, why after the removal of the saviors body even a second thought about those two pieces of timber? Without Christ upon it, what is left? When Christ was upon it, it was touched by Christ, and in that itself it has become blessed. For on an ordinary cross it is only death that hangs upon it, but in the cross of Christ an instrument s born that brings about a new life. A cross of death indeed becomes a tree of life. Hanging on that cross is the death of suffering and sin. On it rests our mistakes, our failures, our regrets, our prides, our jealousy’s, our human frailties; and in hanging them there a new life is resurrected. The new life in Christ and that is not borne in an ordinary cross; it does not come from two ordinary sticks. That only comes from the cross of Christ. The cross that was touched by Christ and the cross that reaches out to us….

                                     

We adore You, O Christ, and praise You,
Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

love your enemies

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“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,

do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,

pray for those who mistreat you.

To the person who strikes you on one cheek,

offer the other one as well,”

Jesus offers up a series of contradictions that defy human behavior. What is the purpose? I think the most memorable of all is the common abbreviation of Jesus’s saying, that is turn the other cheek. On one simple interpretation it seems “that saying” simply sets up a person for abuse, it makes them an easy target to be taken advantage of. Yet anyone who has turned their other cheek after being stricken a few times often learns to spend a little more time in deciphering that sayings enigmatic message. In that situation many interpretations might arise, many of them being as faulty as the one that permitted the first two bruisings! It is a saying that must be carefully studied. Why would Jesus offer up so many contradictory statements, what’s the hidden message? Each might come up with their own reasoning, but for my part I think I have reached a conclusion. That is, don’t let the actions of others draw you into sin. Don’t let someone’s hatred draw you into hate and away from love. Don’t let someone’s curses overpower your blessings, and don’t follow an evil deed down a slippery slope: avoid evil at all costs.How one accomplishes that though, is subject to an entirely different set of interpretations… .. . .

Blessed are the….

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Gospel Lk 6:20-26

The beatitudes are blessings, and that can be looked at in many different ways. One way is to look at them is that they are blessings of certain traits or behaviors, in that way they offer some type of guidance on how to live ones life. In that way too each blessing is left open to interpretation as the words for each trait blessed have various subtle meanings. This leaves the beatitudes, as much of Jesus’s sayings, a concise lesson that can be pondered infinitely; and which can teach infinite lessons.Perhaps this can be considered “the philosophers approach” to these wonderful blessings? Another way to read the beatitudes is as a blessing given over a specific group of Jesus’s followers. A group of people that many times were poor, often were hungry, and who lamented over their situation. They were frequently despised, insulted, cursed and cast out. They were on the fringe of society, and far removed from those who society considered “blessed.” In one small way Jesus beatitudes to these his disciples might be looked at as the answer to the question given by Moses to the ancient Israelites : “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love Jehovah thy God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him; for he is thy life…” Jesus saw these disciples as good people who only wished to follow their God, many times against seemingly insurmountable odds. Perhaps Jesus saw the importance of offering these good people his blessing, when many only offered them a curse.

Apostles

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When day came, he called his disciples to himself,

and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:

from Lk 6:12-19
What is an apostle , what is a disciple, and what is the difference? A disciple is a student of a teacher who needs but a curiosity or interest in what the teacher has to say. They might show interest for another reason than curiosity, or they might be looking to fill some need. Their discipleship might continue to an advanced level or they can end their studies quickly. The Apostle takes their learning to a new level. The word Apostle comes from the Greek apóstolos which means “one who is sent away.” The Apostle has learned their lesson well enough that they can deliver the teachers message to others on behalf of the teacher.To be an apostle curiosity is not enough, but it is the start. From their the apostle advances their learning and understanding to the point that they can explain the message to others. Finally the apostle must receive a blessing from the teacher to speak in his name: the apostle speaks with authority , and that authority is given by their teacher. The message they deliver is not their own, but is the message and teaching of their teacher.In Hebrew the term is” Shaliah .“ A Shaliah performs an act of legal significance for the benefit of the sender, as opposed to him or herself. Jesus granted his apostles power or authority “….he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” In carrying out Christ’s mission the apostle is  “In persona Christi”: Latin for “in the person of Christ.” Here are two quotes:

Pope Pius XII (1947): Only to the apostles, and thenceforth to those on whom their successors have imposed hands, is granted the power of the priesthood, in virtue of which they represent the person of Jesus Christ (In persona Christi) before their people, acting at the same time as representatives of their people before God…

 Pope John Paul II (1980) :  The priest offers the holy Sacrifice in persona Christi… Awareness of this reality throws a certain light on the character and significance of the priest celebrant who, by confecting the holy Sacrifice and acting “in persona Christi,” is sacramentally (and ineffably) brought into that most profound sacredness, and made part of it, spiritually linking with it in turn all those participating in the Eucharistic assembly.

Man with a withered hand

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Lk 6:6-11. On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him,”Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do toJesus.  What was the purpose of going to synagogue or a church? Is it to pay homage to God, is it to learn obedience to God? Is it to gain favor with God? I wonder if that might have been the message Jesus was teaching at the synagogue. On one hand, many might attend a religious service to be seen as upright and holy, they might attend as a requirement to gain entrance to heaven in the afterlife. On the other hand some might attend to learn to become upright and to strive to attain holiness. In the first (Scribes and Pharisees) their impression is that they are righteous, the second (the man with a withered hand) knows their own frailty . In Jesus’s demonstration he shows the faulty can be healed and that irritates those who think they have no faults. The man with the withered hand knew his weakness and acknowledged it, with that he was healed. The righteous could not see their own weakness, in the gospel story they remain the same. Was judging others a fault?  Was anger a fault? Was plotting against another a fault?  Were these not as easily seen as a withered hand?